The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Google for antitrust violations, alleging that it abused its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and harm consumers.
The lawsuit marks the government’s most significant act to protect competition since its groundbreaking case against Microsoft more than 20 years ago. It could be an opening salvo ahead of other major government antitrust actions, given ongoing investigations of major tech companies including Apple, Amazon and Facebook at both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Lawmakers and consumer advocates have long accused Google, whose corporate parent Alphabet Inc. has a market value just over $1 trillion, of abusing its dominance in online search and advertising to stifle competition and boost its profits.
Critics contend that multibillion-dollar fines and mandated changes in Google’s practices imposed by European regulators in recent years weren’t severe enough and that structural changes are needed for Google to change its conduct. The Justice Department isn’t seeking specific changes in Google’s structure or other remedies at this point, but isn’t ruling out seeking additional relief, officials said. Google responded immediately via tweet: “Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to -- not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives.”
The case was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. It alleges that Google uses billions of dollars collected from advertisers to pay phone manufacturers to ensure Google is the default search engine on browsers. Eleven states, all with Republican attorneys general, joined the federal government in the lawsuit. The company, based in Mountain View, California, has long denied the claims of unfair competition. Google argues that although its businesses are large, they are useful and beneficial to consumers. It maintains that its services face ample competition and have unleashed innovations that help people manage their lives.
Today on AirTalk, we’ll take a look at what’s in the Justice Department’s complaint against Google and what this lawsuit portends for possible future government legal action against big tech.
With files from the Associated Press.
We invited the U.S. Department of Justice and Google to join our conversation. Google sent us this blog post in response to our inquiry. As of the airing of this segment, we have not received a reply from the Department of Justice. We will update this page if we hear back from them.
Chris Sagers, professor of law at Cleveland State University
Shubha Ghosh, professor of law at Syracuse University, where he is also the director of the law school’s Intellectual Property and Technology Commercialization Curricular Program as well as the Syracuse Intellectual Property Law Institute (SIPLI); he tweets @ShubhaGhosh